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Boulevard Solitude

Published by: Louise Winter on 15th Mar 2014 | View all blogs by Louise Winter

Boulevard Solitude

Reviewed 13 March 2014

Milton Keynes Theatre

Manon Photo

copywright Johan-Persson

This Fallen Women season from the Welsh National Opera contains two versions of the Manon Lescaut story. Hans Werner Henze’s version, his first full opera and staged in 1952, sets the story just after WWII in Paris. It was a success at the time and continues to be regularly performed.

Mariusz Treliński (director) and Boris Kudička (designer) use almost the same set here as they do for Manon Lescaut; centre stage is an underground station with cocktail bar occasionally visited by commuters on the moving pathway behind and drinkers around the bar, manned by a tattooed barman throughout.

Manon and Lalique

The opening is powerful, depicting the scene of the murder, portrayed in extreme slow motion and beautifully lit by Felice Ross – reminiscent of the beauty of Edward Hopper's paintings. This scene is then repeated twice more; not necessary as the Manon narrative is straightforward and needs no defining. Perhaps though, the story is considered thin enough to warrant this device. The doubles of Manon as well as the sinister men (her clients no doubt) sporting pigs’ heads seem to have been used to ‘flesh out’ the production in a sense. I’m not sure that this aspect of Treliński’s direction does anything to enhance the story.

Vocal performances are superb throughout. Jason Bridges, plays Des Grieux sympathetically, displaying fragility, despite his large frame, with his plaintive vocal performance . Benjamin Bevan as the morally corrupt Lescaut is a commanding presence when on stage. Adrian Thompson, as Lilaque, is believable. It is Sarah Tynan’s performance though, which is strongest. Her voice clear and pure, she plays Manon suitably hard-heartedly and it’s as difficult to engage with her character as it is with the others. In a story where sex is depicted as cold, obsessive and devoid of any sense of desire the feeling of destruction and emptiness at the end is complete.

It is the music though that makes the evening so interesting. Henze's blend of so many genres weaves beautifully into a wonderful score. Conductor Lothar Koenigs clearly loves this challenge and is obviously enjoying himself - looking delighted at his curtain call!

On tour. Visit for venues and tickets

********For Sue ********


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 4 years ago
    Thanks, Louise. A great review. Glad to hear of two quality productions from WNO at Milton Keynes Theatre. I hope they tour north sometime soon.
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